There is a great irony in the fact that Democrats tried very hard to create a truly bipartisan Jan 6th Commission in which – critically – Republicans had an effective veto on any and all actions the Commission would take. That means, among other things, subpoena power. And not just anyone with R after their name – not Tom Keane or Jack Danforth or pick your list of Never Trump Republicans – but commissioners chosen by Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy. They even had a guarantee it would finish its work well ahead of the 2022 election cycle – yet another unmerited protection. But all but ten opposed the bill in the House and Republicans filibustered a vote on the empowering legislation in the Senate.
In the abstract a bipartisan commission was the best way to achieve the national purpose. But, as we’ve discussed, that is only feasible if both parties opposed a grave attack on the republic. But of course, one side did it. And just as critically one side continues to defend it. Indeed, the head of one party led it.
With all this Republicans had on offer a Commission over which they exercised veto control. It is the equivalent of being under investigation and you secure an agreement that the prosecutor and your defense attorney will conduct a joint investigation and only operate by consensus. In fact that was close to literally the agreement.
Now Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proceeded to create the kind of investigative body that we needed in the first place. There are 13 members. 8 are chosen by Speaker Pelosi and 5 will be chosen (by Pelosi) in consultation with Kevin McCarthy. The special committee will have broad powers to investigate the January 6th Insurrection and few arbitrary limits on its purview and scope.
Custodians of propriety will say the investigation shouldn’t be politicized. And this is right, as far as it goes, inasmuch as this meaning of the word is meant to signify when politicized inappropriately. But elections are about public judgement, informing the public to make proper decisions about protecting themselves and the republic. It is hard to conceive of what information would be more germane and important to know in 2022, when the public has the choice to put the Republican party back in power, to examine how many remain complicit in the previous year’s attempt to overthrow the government. Most Republicans remain complicit in the attempt. Many actively participated. The party’s undisputed leader led the effort.
The most interesting next move will be whether Republicans even choose to participate.
McCarthy has no free choices. They’re all subject to Pelosi’s final say. It’s hard to see why Pelosi would agree to the participation of any Republicans actively trying to blow up the process. One might imagine she’d have some interest in including participants who would further discredit Republican complicity. But that doesn’t seem like her style. In the current Republican party, it’s hard to see what a Republican participant would have to gain by meaningfully or conscientiously participating. That’s just a good way to get written out of the party altogether, or draw a serious primary challenge at the bare minimum. Perhaps McCarthy simply refuses all participation to cue up the argument that it is a purely partisan witch hunt.
This leaves the 35 Republican representatives who did vote for the Commission, many of whom have been effectively written out of the party already. Katko, Cheney, Kinzinger seem like the obvious possibilities. They’ve already demonstrated that they are not taking McCarthy’s instructions.
Regardless of these considerations Pelosi seems to have decided that her goal is a real and exhaustive investigation. That’s a good thing.